Worth Repeating: Kurt Andersen on New York’s Whiplash

new york oct 11.jpgIt’s pretty rare that we feel the need to quote heavily from New York, however, we read this (in this week’s HSBC sponsored issue — there are things you just can’t make up) on the train home last night and thought it was just about right.

So seldom do we motley millions all think and talk about the same thing at the same time — let alone two great big things, let alone intensely and continually for weeks at a time.

Welcome to the extraordinary fall of 2008. As the imploded financial industry is nationalized, and we prepare to elect — can it really be? — an African-American intellectual the next president, New Yorkers are in a kind of breathless, Twittery mind meld about matters of huge historic consequence.

Because Wall Street is (excuse the expression) ground zero for the present cataclysm, we are probably experiencing financial vertigo more acutely than most of our fellow Americans. And yet at the same time, because something approaching nine out of ten New York voters will pull the lever for Barack Obama two weeks from now, we are at the same time brimming with uncanny, yes, hopefulness about the imminent change in national leadership and policy. Every day, crazily fibrillating numbers (the Dow down 777 points, the Dow up 936 points) make us feel sick, while another set of equally amazing numbers (Obama well ahead in every national poll, and tied or better in three southern states) puts a song in our hearts. This data-driven combination of sky-is-falling dread and OMG giddiness—meth-laced Ecstasy, anyone?—is bizarre, unprecedented. And more cognitively dissonant still, the good news is being driven in some measure by the bad news.